My $1,000 Optometrist Appointment


I went for my regular 2-year eye check-up last week. I updated my prescription for my contact lenses recently, but I haven’t changed the one in my eyeglasses for nearly 4 years. Sadly, my vision continues to get incrementally worse each year which means that for the past 6 months or so I’ve been squinting to see things at a distance through my glasses. This has been annoying for quite some time, but only recently did it reach the point where I thought, “Ok, I can’t see”.


I booked an appointment with a new optometrist, and in my exam she informed me I have super dry eyes and am spending too much time on the computer (she asked me how often I take breaks from staring at screens and I responded, “you’re supposed to take breaks??”). I walked out with a new eyeglasses prescription, plus a second prescription for eye drops, a bottle of fish oil supplements, and strict instructions to take breaks from screens every hour, plus I have to wear my glasses for 2 weeks while I use the eyedrops 4x per day. Eek!

I never scrimp when it comes to spending on my health, but even I was surprised by the bill for this visit. Apparently eye exams costs $130 now — I had been thinking they were still $70-$90 for some reason. My prescription eye drops were $70 and the fish oil supplements were another nearly $30. My graduate student health plan reimbursed me $50 (thanks) immediately for the eye exam, but I’m still waiting for my reimbursement for the eye drops (expecting another $50). Because I visited the optometrist on my lunch hour break, I didn’t have time to select a new pair of glasses, but I was told my lenses will cost approximately $450 and then the cost of frames will vary based on what I choose, but I’m expecting another few hundred dollars.

Total costs?

  • Eye exam – $135 (reimbursed $50)

  • Prescription eyedrops – $70 (reimbursed $50)

  • Fish oil supplements – $27

  • Lenses – approximately $450 (will be reimbursed partial or full amount)

  • Frames – undecided, hopefully <$300 (will be reimbursed partial or full amount)

= about $1,000

I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 13 and I don’t think it’s ever cost that much before! I’m hoping to get the full cost of the new lenses & frames covered through a health spending account but I won’t know how much until I make the purchase and submit my receipts. Also, because it will be coming from a health spending account, using these funds up means they can’t be allocated to other healthcare costs later, and since I still need to visit the dentist, I’m wary of bankrupting the account all in one go.

I regularly use Clear Contacts for my contact lens orders, but I’m hesitant about choosing frames without trying them on first. Plus I’m not sure the site offers the super amazing anti-blue-light you-can-probably-see-in-the-dark-and-see-into-the-future lenses that my optometrist sold me on. Because I wear my glasses 3-4x per week for up to 4 or 5 years at a time, I’m willing to spend more if it means getting the most comfortable and functional pair of spectacles available.

Any health costs surprising your bank account lately?


  1. Emilie

    I’ve purchased this year my first pair of glasses as I’ve developed Myopia over the year.The best advice I have is to shop around try and compare if you haven’t bought your frame and lenses yet. Stores such as LensCrafters often offers your lenses at 50% when you also purchase your frame that could help you reduce your claim in your health spending account. I was also surprise to discover how much cheaper lenses and frames are at Costco. Good luck !

    • Bridget (Author)

      I have heard such good things about Costco!! I’m definitely going there to check out their selection before I buy — everyone seems to get really cool frames at great prices from there.

      • I got my eye exam done at Costco for $80 – plus the optometrist is independent from the store, so there’s no pressure to buy your glasses there. I got my glasses through Clearly Contacts, but my fiance swears by Costco glasses – they last him ages!

  2. All the health costs are surprising my bank account lately! I’m insured, and I’ve still forked out several thousand for a chronic illness — tests, procedure, meds, immunizations and monthly appointments. As a result, other costs have gone up as well. I’m getting all my other medical stuff done that I’ve been putting off (actually have an eye appointment on Tuesday). On top of that, my food budget has gone up because I have no desire to (a) get sicker or (b) develop another illness from stuffing my face with processed crap. Medical costs are crazy high, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my health for any amount of money 🙂

    • Bridget (Author)

      Yikes! Hope you’re ok Erin!!

      Yeah the indirect expenses are definitely the healthy eating.. even my optometrist was telling me healthy things to eat (including those fish oil supplements!) for “eye health”. Also with my fitness I’ve been good about avoiding “bad” foods which is hard on my grocery bill… especially now that I’m experimenting with so many healthy recipes. Sometimes my concoctions don’t turn out right and I feel like I just wasted food =\

      • I’m managing 🙂

        My docs never tell me to eat healthy, they just prescribe me meds. I finally asked why, and apparently not eating chemicals to improve health doesn’t have enough scientific evidence, just anecdotal evidence. So I’m doing my own thing (in conjunction with my meds) because I think that’s a bullshit answer.

        I’ve been able to salvage the things I’ve been cooking lately. And everything is at least semi-edible. I’ve even learned not to cry when recipes don’t turn out well, which is sadly progress …

  3. I haven’t been to the optometrist in about 5 years likely. I think it’s probably time to go back, especially since I do have benefits right now. Sadly, they’re not so great for vision. I only have $200 every two years, and that includes the eye exam. Hopefully things are not much different and I just need new lenses or something (my frames are still nice, and don’t look dated).

    I’m sure that I’ll end up complaining about the cost of it when I get there!

    • Bridget (Author)

      Yeahh I can’t believe how stingy benefit providers are with the eye exam thing. I couldn’t believe my eye exam was $130 and they only reimburse $50… I mean, I only have to go every 2 years come on.

      I thought of just putting new lenses in my black Ray Bans but they hurt my ears and I want something new =(

  4. Yeahhhh I was blown away with how expensive the optometrist is! A few months ago I used my benefits to get a pair of prescription sunglasses and man, was I ever happy insurance covered the whole cost! All in, it came to about 700$ (for the exam, lenses, frames, etc.) and I was miraculously reimbursed for the whole thing.
    I have a decent health plan and am always reimbursed for my full dentist amount too…massages are also refunded 80%. Paying out of pocket for all that would not be fun!

  5. It’s the frames. I always just get the cheapest frames they have. No sense going too high, there is only so much to work with…lol

  6. Katie

    I can’t stress enough that you should shop around for glasses! I went to almost every franchise and shop I could get to reasonably, and was astounded at the difference in frame selection and prices (and service). My last frames were only $70, plus ~$200 lenses, and the staff was exceedingly helpful in finding frames for my tiny face. The shop was called New Look, but I think they’re mostly in eastern Canada.

  7. Kristan

    I’m so happy I invested in LASIK this year! The total cost was $3,400 (which includes free “touch ups” if ever needed in the future), but by diligently hoarding and carrying over my employee health spending account, my out-of-pocket cost was less than a third of that!

    • Bridget (Author)

      I’m so terrified of Lasik! My friend’s surgery was botched and now he has to put eyedrops in like 6x a day for the rest of his life =( I know he’s the 0.00001% but still terrifying!

  8. Like you I have had surprising eye doctor bills, I also had to do the drop thing last summer and is horrible! I did however order my favourite new glasses off of and AMAZING experience; if you’re worried about not being able to try them on first go to a Hakim or other places and try on the frames first! Also get a cheap measuring tape and measure your current frames and make sure the new frames measurements will work for you. Also, on the website you can upload a picture of your face and try the frames you’re interested in on your face too!
    Good Luck!

    • Bridget (Author)

      That’s a good idea to browse the frames at a store then see if I can find them online… definitely has a great selection of name brands so I imagine it’s similar to what’s in most stores!

  9. Yikes – that’s not cheap! I have never had a problem with my eyes at all, but recently I have started to see lights and little swimming things in my vision so I think I should probably go get an eye exam. It is just one of those things I’ve been putting off.

  10. Let’s not talk about the fact that my husband recently slept ON HIS GLASSES. Who does that!? (Maybe lots of people. I don’t wear them so and don’t fall asleep easily so maybe I just don’t understand how problematic this can be.) Although it is good that he did it because we’ve moved since his last appointment and the doc did a total check up and realized that he needs a very different prescription than the one that he had.

    Actually, my husband is bankrupting me with his health costs. He never had braces when he was younger and hopes to get them in the near future.

  11. I’m waiting for my supplemental benefits to kick in at work (next week! Huzzah!), and I need to get my eyes checked as well. It’s been just under 2 years since I got my glasses, but I don’t think the prescription has changed too much.
    However, I’m seeing a dentist for the first time in 4 years (YIKES!) so I have a feeling that bill is going to be ridonk. I’m expecting something horrible like half a dozen fillings. Here’s hoping my bank account won’t suffer too terribly!

  12. Marion

    Have you tried looking into buying your lenses via a reward provider? I know Air Miles goes hand-in-hand with a few lens companies and sometimes they have deals combined with points offers. At least that way you’ll be gaining a bit extra for travel!

  13. Wow! This really puts into perspective that I should be more grateful for my 20/20 vision. Since I haven’t ever had the need for prescription glasses I forgot how much it can add up! I can see how it would be worth the investment to get some comfy specs. Hopefully you get reimbursed!

  14. I was VERY lucky that when I went from wearing-glasses-in-class-only to wearing-glasses-all-the-damn-time that I was living with my dad who paid for my new glasses. I’ve been wearing the same frames every day since (wow – that was like 6 years ago!) but I’ve had the lenses changed 3 times. I’ve only had to pay out-of-pocket for that once, which was about $200, but the other times I was either fully covered or got 80% back.

    I tried going for contacts and ordered 3 months worth (2 prescription changes ago) and only even used a few pairs. My eyes didn’t take to them very well, but the contacts were very useful for weddings and trips to the amusement park.

  15. Exams are still <$100 here thankfully! Unfortunately I have terrible vision so my lenses cost similar to yours, as do frames. BUT I decided to buy frames online and saved a buttload in the process.

    Interesting that your optom mentioned fish oil – didn't realise that had benefits for sight as well as brain. Maybe i need to start taking it again.

  16. A

    Last year I updated my prescription at a boutique eye place and it was a $200+ frame and $400+ lenses. After insurance I paid $300 out of pocket. Turns out I shouldn’t be allowed to pick my own frame when I’m blind as a bat. I ended up hating the frame and the prescription was too high, giving me a headache. $300 down the drain, I only wore the glasses for one day. This year I tried again, dead set on not repeating my financial mistake. $100 frame picked out by my design-savvy boyfriend and $350 lenses at a chain eye place (I picked the location with the fewest crappy Yelp reviews). Less than $200 out of pocket after insurance.

  17. Anirban Saha

    i just went for a check up yesterday and the total cost was 700 $ , its so expensive in this country, i am from INdia and back there i would have the same service at the best Hospitals/providers for around 100 $ with doctors appointment(opthalmologist+lenses+frame all together best quality). Something is so wrong in this country….